Home > Uncategorized > Ferret vs. The Movies: Man Of Steel & World War Z

Ferret vs. The Movies: Man Of Steel & World War Z

I recently got the chance to experience an all-American drive-in movie theatre. I won’t be talking about this in this entry (since I have other plans to talk about that particular experience). Instead, I’ll just be talking about the movies I saw, since it was a double bill of Man Of Steel, the new Superman movie, and World War Z, starring Brad Pitt and based on the book by Max Brooks.

I mainly wanted to see WWZ due to how much I loved the book, but going in for MoS made life easier in terms of actually getting into the drive-in and parking somewhere decent. It’s pretty much the only way I’d have ever gone to see that movie since I find Superman boring.

Yes, Superman is boring. He is invulnerable, he is super-strong and he can magic up any power he wants to suit any given scenario he’s in. He is the very definition of a Marty Stu, a character so perfect and manly that no one can touch him. And that’s boring. Who wants to watch a character that never fails, never struggles, never undergoes hardship and comes out triumphant at the other end after a tough battle? There’s no tension, no drama, no reason to keep watching.

But Man Of Steel was produced by Christopher Nolan, who helped revitalise the Batman franchise with The Dark Knight trilogy. Maybe it’s not so bad?

No, it is that bad.

Man of Steel is a visual tour de force, with explosions galore and people being slammed through buildings lots and things generally looking very impressive, but sadly there’s very little substance to back up all this style.

Superman remains as dull as ever. He’s a bland character who’s all square jaw and no personality. Hell, he even looks wrong in this movie, since he’s played by a very average-sized man instead of the expected brick powerhouse he traditionally is. He’s basically a man cosplaying as Superman and doing a decent, if not spectacular job.

The plot is spectacular fluff. It’s a Superman origin story, which means we see Superman loaded into a rocket and shot off his home planet Krypton for his own safety by his dad Russell Crowe while generic angry evil man (aka General Zod) spends most of the movie being generic and angry and evil because he wants to do something bad with Earth and it’s up to Superman to realise his true powers and save the day. And of course he will, because he’s a Marty Stu.

Try as they might, Superman just doesn’t feel suitable for a gritty reboot in the vein of The Dark Knight. He feels far too silly. OK, superheroes are almost always silly, but some lend themselves better to serious storylines than others (Batman works due to the whole orphaned crazy billionaire vigilante angle, so do the X-Men since you can turn that canon into a human rights allegory). Superman, meanwhile, can never really separate himself from the “Lex Luthor stole 40 cakes and that’s terrible” memes and godawful ring-based video games.

Man Of Steel tries so hard to present him a troubled Christ-like figure, but this analogy gets so tired so quickly. In fact, it’s hard to take him seriously as mankind’s saviour when he’s punching large men through buildings and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage to New York Metropolis. It’s also hard to take him seriously when his adopted dad is Kevin Costner (pulling out all the stops on the casting front, I see) and he spends most of the movie looking confused.

Sadly, it wasn’t even fun to watch Man Of Steel in an ironic, so-bad-it’s-good way. Some dumb blockbusters work well on this level, but not this movie. This is just average in absolutely every way.

Much better was World War Z. Brad Pitt is a UN investigator sent out to find out what the hell’s going on in the world as a crisis erupts. You see, the dead have been rising, and people are beginning to act strangely, gaining superhuman strength and a taste for human flesh. The UN doesn’t like to admit it, but they’ve got a zombie outbreak on their hands.

I was looking forward to this. World War Z was a fantastic book. Part supernatural horror and part socio-political commentary, it told the story of the zombie outbreak and subsequent war against them through a series of interviews with people around the world who witnessed everything first hand. Obviously complete fiction (unless there’s been a major zombie apocalypse and no one informed me…), but presented as if it were an actual historical account.

Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out the movie had very little to do with the book. About all they have in common is that there’s a UN investigator travelling the world, a wall in Israel, and…uh…zombies. Which is kind of understandable since adapting the novel faithfully would have required a TV series, not a movie. The book contains so many plots and characters and locations that covering it all in a two-hour period would have been damn near impossible.

That said, WWZ: The Movie does feel like a nice companion piece to the book. There are references to it – the East Coast of the US becomes a danger zone very quickly, refugees flee to colder locales like Nova Scotia in Canada, Israel build a wall, North Korea employ some…unusual tactics to battle the hoard – but this tells a bunch of new stories instead.

Sadly, while new stories are good, some of my favourite stories of the book were noticeably missing. The hilarious commentary on celebrity culture, where a bunch of self-absorbed media whores hole themselves up in a mansion but also feel the need to broadcast a live web-feed of themselves, was absent. Also absent was the highly entertaining Japanese subplot featuring an otaku who avoids the worst of the outbreak by simply never getting off the Internet and ends up forming an anti-zombie militia with the help of a blind gardener and a neighbour’s katana.

But I did like how they’d expanded the few elements that they did expand on. The entire section involving the WHO Institute in Cardiff was missing from the novel but was satisfactorily based on some of the lore, and provided more information on how humans were finally able to fight back. They were also some outright tense moments such as Brad Pitt sneaking around corridors avoiding dormant zombies and a terrifying scene where zombies start attacking on a plane.

It’s not a perfect movie. The scene were zombies scale the Israeli wall felt a little silly (although this was offset by that plane scene), and it did generally feel a little hollow at times, like it wasn’t really sure what to do with itself. The ending was particularly rushed and again made me feel like a mini-series adhering more to the book’s story would have been a greater adaptation.

But overall, it was a solid piece of entertainment that was well-paced and exciting. But sadly it only manages to be an entertaining companion piece to the novel rather than a great movie in its own right.

  1. July 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the
    page layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    • July 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      I take it you mean increasing the use of pictures throughout my posts? Because that is something I’ve been considering doing more of in future to liven things up a bit. Or do you mean making changes to the overall layout of the blog? And if so, what sort of suggestions?

      Thanks for the feedback, by the way. It’s much appreciated!

  1. August 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

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